More than 85,000 veterans sought treatment for injuries or illness linked to sexual abuse in 2012, according to a new Associated Press study. It is another factor in the wide-reaching sexual assault crisis facing the U.S. Military.
While women are more likely to be victims, men made up nearly 40 percent of those seeking treatment for "military sexual trauma."
The study underscores the long-term effects of military sexual assaults. Victims can experience a variety of health problems, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
Ruth Moore of Milbridge, Maine, started treatment in 2003, 16 years after she was raped twice while stationed with the Navy in Europe. Though she receives monthly counseling, she doesn't believe she'll ever be cured of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome."We can't cure me, but we can work on stability in my life and work on issues as they arrive," Moore said.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said reducing the incidence of sexual assaults in the military is a top priority.
In a recent talk with key Pentagon officials President Obama echoed Hagel. "We will not stop until we've seen this scourge, from what is the greatest military in the world, eliminated," he said. "Not only is it a crime, not only is it shameful and disgraceful, but it also is going to make and has made the military less effective than it can be."
Meanwhile, Veterans Administration officials stress that all veterans who claim to have suffered military sexual trauma are eligible to receive free health care.
"It really is the case that a veteran can simply walk through the door, say they've had this experience, and we will get them hooked up with care. There's no documentation required. They don't need to have reported it at the time," said Dr. Margaret Bell, a member of the VA's military sexual trauma team.
Many say the hurdles are steeper for those seeking disability compensation, prompting veterans groups and lawmakers to support legislation to facilitate dispursal of monthly disability checks.